An Introduction to The Gospel According to Mark

November 27, 2020

This is an audio introduction to the Gospel According to Mark with a transcription for those would rather read.

Audio

Transcription

As I preach, I am faced with decisions on what to include and what not to include in my sermons. There are many things that are important, but I am not able to include them - such as the formal introduction to a book I am getting ready to preach through. Here is a brief overview introduction to The Gospel of Mark. If you would like a more in depth one, check out the bibliography below.

For centuries The Gospel According to Mark was neglected. However, in recent times, it has come into its own as the Church has given it proper attention and status. It has been tempting to think that Mark doesn't contribute anything unique among the four gospels. It is the shortest, and most of what Mark records does, in fact, show up in the other three. Clearly the Holy Spirit didn't make a mistake by breathing these Scriptures through Mark. So what value does Mark give us?

The Difference of Perspective

The most common attack unbelieving skeptics throw at the gospels is that they contradict each other. The correct answer is through understanding the perspective of the authors of the gospels and harmonizing those perspectives. The Holy Spirit used the personalities and perspectives of the authors to communicate infallible and inerrant accounts. As we examine those perspectives, we begin to see what makes them unique.

A few years ago, I came in contact with a man who knew my grandfather back 50 years ago. My grandfather was a pastor, and I didn't know him that well. But I did get to know him a little as a young adult. As I have met people over the years who knew him, I have always been interested in what they had to say about him. Of course, there was some overlap as they described him, and there were various perspectives on him. Yet they all were describing the same person. So it is with the four gospels.

Many people believe that Mark wrote his gospel from Rome itself with a strong connection to the Apostle Peter's experiences with Jesus. Whenever we write something or prepare to speak about something, we have an intended audience. When I prepare to preach, I think of my congregation, and that determines how I communicate.

As I write this, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a period of time when many churches were not allowed to meet in person. Many pastors during this time were still preaching behind their pulpits - but to an empty auditorium. So, I began to see pictures of auditoriums with cardboard cutout people with faces attached to them. Some of them were saying, "Amen, preacher." Others, "That's right! Preach it!"

Communicators have an audience in mind, and Mark was no exception. Mark wrote from Rome, and he had Roman people in mind when he wrote. He omitted things that a Jewish person would be interested in, and his style reflected the Roman culture he wrote to. Mark wrote to the point, and he emphasized action. His favorite word was "immediately." You can see this style immediately in chapter one. (see what I did there?) He opens up with rapid fire assertions and events. He gets right to the point!

I want to briefly look at two other matters as I introduce this book: First, who wrote Mark, and second, when was it written.

Who Wrote Mark?

This might seem like a silly question. Mark wrote Mark! Yet, the book is technically anonymous. The book no where claims that Mark wrote the book. I have already been referencing the author as Mark, and so clearly I believe that Mark wrote the book. There are good reasons to believe that Mark wrote it. The reason I bring this up is so that you are not taken off guard later on.

The strongest support of Mark as the Author was that as early as around 110 AD we have testimony that Mark is the author. Among the church fathers, they all unanimously credit Mark as the author. There are other details to consider, and you could consider them by looking at some of the good, popular study Bibles.

When Was Mark Written?

Some people are fascinated with the sequence of events in the early church. There is a debate among serious Bible-believing scholars for when Mark wrote his book. It is highly likely he wrote it before the destruction of the temple (70 AD), and perhaps much earlier than that in the late 50s AD.

Conclusion

When I sat down yesterday to work on my first sermon in this series on Mark, I was refreshed and blessed when I read the first several verses of chapter one. It didn't greet me with a genealogy (like Matthew) nor with strong theological language (like John). It spoke to me directly about the good news, about Jesus Christ the Son of God, about the one who prepared the way for Jesus, about repentance, and the incarnate Christ - all in the first eleven verses. Mark, by the Holy Spirit, met me right where I am with hardly a concern of cultural difference in under a minute.

Bibliography

Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 1889–1892.

James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 17–35.

John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 95–102.

John MacArthur, Mark 1–8, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015), 1–9.

William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1317–1318.

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